A proposed federal rule would make emergency preparedness a condition for healthcare institutions to participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs, according to a Feb. 13 New York Times article written by Sherri Fink.
The proposed rule could help save lives, Nicole Lurie, MD, an assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said in the article.
“Being ready and able to withstand disaster can benefit individual healthcare facilities and the local economy and helps the community as a whole recover faster,” Lurie said in the article.
The rule could affect more than 68,000 providers, including hospitals, kidney dialysis centers, psychiatric treatment facilities, home health agencies and organ transplant procurement organizations.
Healthcare groups have raised concerns about the rules including the cost of some of the provisions, according to the article.
Among other steps, providers would be required to conduct regular disaster drills, have plans for maintaining services during power failures and create systems to track and care for displaced patients, according to Fink’s article.
Federal rules as of yet do not require critical medical institutions to prepare for care when emergencies such as hurricanes, earthquakes and infectious epidemics occur, according to the article.
The idea for the rule came after more than 200 people died in hospitals and nursing homes in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, according to the article.
The evacuation of more than 6,400 hospital and nursing-home patients in New York City after Hurricane Sandy in 2012 further convinced the government about the need for healthcare emergency preparedness rules.
The American Health Care Association, which represents facilities that care for the elderly and the disabled, met with the federal government in December to discuss the rule. The association said the costs would be higher than the government’s annual estimates of $8,000 for hospitals and $1,262 for skilled nursing facilities, according to the article.
Mark Covall, president and chief executive of the National Association of Psychiatric Health Systems, said in the article, “Each organization can only do so much based on their resources.”
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